Brooks is a “moderate conservative” (he discusses this in the recording, saying he is really more of a 19th Century Whig) NY Times columnist, TV and radio pundit/commentator, book author, philosopher (as I see it), and now director of a social movement called Weave: The Social Fabric Project with the Aspen Institute (weareweavers.org – you’ll like his 2-minute video on this page; find out about the project in the text under the menu bar items).
I’ve been a big fan of Brooks for many years. I once posted a comment on his Twitter page nominating him for Secretary of Reason in the next White House administration. (I don’t use Twitter anymore. Or Facebook.) But I guess it wouldn’t make sense for the government to have a Department of Reason.
They push the heart toward believing more about the world than it seems to want believed, something more believable — more real — when they sing about it, something we need them to sing about, to keep the spirit breathing, to strengthen faith and disarm disbelief.
Pine flower. Thoreau discovered them by climbing a big pine to the top. I got lucky. This one was on a tree bent low to the ground. I’m not sure, but I think it’s a scotch pine, of which we have very few at Balsamea. I’ve never seen another one of these “flowers,” so I feel lucky.
If I were to invent a religion, it would be centered on forest immersion. It need not be a highly social alliance of souls, because silence and solitude are like vestments of immersion. Other critical components of the Order would be creativity, play, liberality and education.
Religion that has lost its playfulness can be dangerous. —from an article by Peter Gray, author ofFree to Learn
This new religion is wrapped around a core understanding that there are not two natures, human and non-human. There is one Nature and we are part of it. Forest immersion can make this knowledge holistic, both visceral and intellectual, drawn from the primordial biophilia in human nature, and from burgeoning modern science on the topic.
Adherence to this religion calls for daily walking through forest or field, ideally twice or more per day, at least 40 minutes at a time, ideally 90 minutes or more. That would be merely casual adherence.
You never know what may happen during deeper immersion, if you let go of the usual tight grip on yourself and let “wild mind” roll. For instance, here’s Thoreau doing it (in one of a thousand possible ways):
I went back into poetry because I felt like scientific language wasn’t precise enough to describe the experiences that I had in Galapagos. Science, rightly, is always trying to remove the “I.” But I was really interested in the way that the “I” deepened the more you paid attention. In Galapagos, I began to realize that because I was in deeply attentive states, hour after hour, watching animals and birds and landscapes — and that’s all I did for almost two years — I began to realize that my identity depended not upon any beliefs I had, inherited beliefs or manufactured beliefs, but my identity actually depended on how much attention I was paying to things that were other than myself and that as you deepen this intentionality and this attention, you started to broaden and deepen your own sense of presence.
I began to realize that the only places where things were actually real was at this frontier between what you think is you and what you think is not you […] But it’s astonishing how much time human beings spend away from that frontier, abstracting themselves out of their bodies, out of their direct experience, and out of a deeper, broader, and wider possible future that’s waiting for them if they hold the conversation at that frontier level. […] John O’Donohue, a mutual friend of both of us, used to say that one of the necessary tasks is this radical letting alone of yourself in the world, letting the world speak in its own voice and letting this deeper sense of yourself speak out. -David Whyte, speaking in interview with Krista Tippett (full transcript and audio)
Often when I walk these woods I get awe-struck by the enormity of all these trees cradling me, nursing me in mind and body, opening themselves to me, entreating me to surrender ever more fully to their care.
Autumnal view of a big American beech (with splashes of maple and balsam fir)
I have no idea how many trees are in Balsamea, so I say ten thousand. It’s probably a drastically low estimate, especially if you count all the little ones just getting started. I also say I’ve walked these trails ten thousand times, but I know it is many more. I just stopped estimating when it reached ten thousand. It’s all too much for me, and never enough.
I am immersed in the virtually miraculous nature of this unbelievable gift in which I swim. I did nothing to deserve it or earn it.
“Enchantment is the oldest form of medicine.” – C. G. Jung, as quoted by Meredith Sabini, Ed., The Earth Has a Soul; The Nature Writings of C.G. Jung, p. 4
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HERE’S THAT MOON I NEVER PROMISED YOU. The Balsamean and the moon shattering in the clouds over Moose Pond, August 2005. Click for full screen view, as with all pictures in this article.
If you want to write a song about the heart Think about the moon before you start Because the heart will howl like a dog in the moonlight And the heart can explode like a pistol on a June night So if you want to write a song about the heart And its everlonging for a counterpart Na na na na na na Yeah yeah yeah Write a song about the moon
When you write a song about the moon, or dance with it alone in the peaceful beauty of night, your heart may have a counterpart right there. Mine does, and I thank the moon for never giving up on our blessed relationship, and for the fun of creating moonlit pictures, and its help engaging enchantment and fantasy for the health of my soul.
After half a foot of sticky, soggy snowfall overnight, today the temperature at Balsamea rose well above freezing. Along our trails, rapidly thawing snow showered from the trees everywhere in these dense woods, especially from the pines and firs, those bearers of great snow-loads.
Click pix for full size images
It fell in droplets, spoonfuls, cupfuls, bucketfuls and barrowfuls. The still, windless air said nothing while each of these sizes played their particular sounds, all around me patting, drumming, shushing and thumping their way through tree limbs, branches, twigs and evergreen boughs, then concluding each phrase with a strike on the snow on the ground. They formed an unusual percussive symphony unique to this particular circumstance, in a special variation playing upon atypical conditions in the fresh snow cover.
When or where can you hear nature using trees and snow as instruments to drench the still air in sound this way, with a variety of visual effects, too? When do you get to sit in the middle of the orchestra as it plays? It filled the air within a great dome surrounding me, simultaneously at every volume possible to my ears. Some notes played a few feet from me, ranging out to ones played barely within hearing. Some struck funny notes on my ball cap and shoulders. Continue reading →